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Isaac behind biggest one-day jump in gas prices

Gasoline prices hit a national average of $3.80 per gallon, up five cents in one day. Hurricane Isaac shut down several refineries along the Gulf Coast and others are operating at reduced rates. In all, about 1.3 million barrels per day of refining capacity is affected.

By Jonathan FaheyAssociated Press / August 30, 2012

A man pumps gas into his van while a sign advertises that a gallon of regular unleaded costs $4.09 at a Speedway on Kalamazoo, Mich. Drivers are facing the biggest one-day jump in gasoline prices in 18 months, as Hurricane Isaac swamps the nation's oil and gas hub along the Gulf Coast.

(AP Photo/Kalamazoo Gazette, Mark Bugnaski)

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Drivers are being hit with the biggest one-day jump in gasoline prices in 18 months just as Labor Day weekend, the last heavy driving weekend of the summer, approaches.

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As Hurricane Isaac swamps the nation's oil and gas hub along the Gulf Coast, it's delivering sharply higher pump prices to storm-battered residents of Louisiana and Mississippi — and also to unsuspecting drivers up north in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The national average price of a gallon of gas jumped almost five cents Wednesday to $3.80, the highest ever for this date. Prices are expected to continue to climb through Labor Day weekend, the end of the summer driving season.

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"The national average will keep ticking higher, and it's going to be noticeable," says Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at Gasbuddy.com

The wide storm shut down several refineries along the Gulf Coast and others are operating at reduced rates. In all, about 1.3 million barrels per day of refining capacity is affected. So, it's no surprise that drivers in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida saw gas prices rise by a dime or more in the past week.

But some states in the Midwest are suffering even more dramatic spikes. Ohio prices jumped 14 cents, Indiana prices soared 13 cents and Illinois prices jumped 10 cents on Wednesday alone according to the Oil Price Information Service. Days before Isaac is expected to douse those states with rain, the storm forced the shutdown of a pipeline that serves a number of Midwest refineries.

Drivers in the region were angry and confused. "''I saw gas in my neighborhood for $3.56 a gallon just Tuesday morning, and now I'm paying $3.95. It's terrible," said Mary Allen of Cincinnati as she paid $20 for just over five gallons of gas. She wondered how Isaac could drive up gas prices in Ohio — and then resigned herself to a holiday weekend without travel.

The price surge is happening at the wrong time and the wrong place for Dickson Stewart, a 56-year-old electronics consultant, who is driving from Minneapolis to Savannah, Ga. this week. He stopped at a BP station in downtown Chicago Tuesday — home to some of the highest retail prices in the country — and paid $4.49 a gallon to fill up his Jeep Wrangler.

Stewart expects gas prices to fall after Labor Day. Analysts say he's probably right.

As Isaac fades away, the summer driving season ends, and refiners switch to cheaper winter blends of gasoline, stations owners should start dropping prices. "There is some very good relief in sight," DeHaan says.

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